Invisible and Irrelevant

As I look at this past year and plan for the next I realize that this year made a significant awareness of why I have stayed single so long.  It’s now been over 37 years that I have been in this state of being a single woman. I have struggled for so long to try to figure out what has influenced me in remaining in this state and why I have not endeavored to really change it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of men or enjoy the laughter, flirtation or the sexual chemistry that occurs, but I have also learned and accepted myself as an independent and assertive woman who cannot tolerate misogyny or condescending behavior towards me.  This year’s election and results only strengthened and confirmed my beliefs, however, it left me wondering about the mindset of other women who voted for an obvious misogynistic, disrespectful, bigoted man.

Granted, I have not always been so strong or vocal about my beliefs.  I was a child of the 50’s.  I was a child that was to be seen and not heard.  I was the daughter of a man who was disappointed that I was not a boy.  I grew up with a chauvinistic father who made sexist and degrading remarks about women when he wasn’t around my mother. I grew up with a man who made remarks about my body as it developed into womanhood.  I was expected to stay silent about these remarks even though I found them embarrassing and degrading.

I too have been in situations where I have had unwanted and unsolicited advances and remarks where I have remained silent.  Remained silent to keep the peace or try to keep safe. I have been overlooked in my profession,  not because of expertise for advancement, but because I was a woman. I have had my ideas disregarded because I was a woman only to have the ideas stolen by a man and taken with praise and high regard.

Misogyny according to the dictionary means a hatred of women. Although a man may say they do not “hate” women, when they are disrespectful, ignore our intelligence, degrade our bodies with lewd gestures and remarks. they are not aware of the full impact of these deeds.  It seems to me that men have a problem with the terms misogyny and sexism because there are two views on sexism.  The hostile and benevolent sides of sexism.

I read a statement by one man who asked just because he said lewd and disrespectful things to a woman did that mean that you can’t be sexually attracted to a woman.  Sexual attraction and disrespect are two totally different things! Yes, we can flirt with you  – as lovers, when this is between consenting adults, our language will tell you when this is acceptable.  When we say no, it means NO.

Hostile sexism is a man being threatened by a woman’s independence or attitude to instill in him to act in a disrespectful or lewd manner.  A man will also mistake innocent remarks or friendly conversation as sexually teasing or flirtation when they are not and then be offended when he is rejected. This results then, in almost a “self-preservation” of ego on the man’s part to body-shaming the woman, to turn hostile to the woman, to be angry.   Here is where women have learned to live a fine line.   When and where do we smile, answer, flirt, who do we trust with our emotions, and if we are married, how do we appease our husbands to avoid arguments?

Then, there is the benevolent sexism we women have lived with all these years.  This sexism has been just as harmful to our psyche and confidence.  As wives, mothers, and daughters there is the thought that we need to be protected.  Although we do appreciate being cherished and loved, we do not appreciate being PATRONIZED!  We are not stupid, we have our own minds, we have our own thoughts about things.  We do not have to agree with men on everything and should not be punished or ignored if we do not agree with you.

It seems this fine dance of hostility and benevolence that women have lived with has undermined many women’s ability to become independent and to become confident in their own opinions.  Sometimes it has been just too easy for us to allow men to have their “locker room” talk,  grab us when we don’t want it; it’s been too easy for us to stay in marriages that we don’t want because we don’t want to lose materials things; it’s too easy for us not speak our minds to avoid arguments or violence.

I have seen too many women remain in this state of denial or dependence and it’s my opinion that they have not been given the opportunity to speak their minds and have remained repressed so don’t know any better.  I also have seen too many women not want to be independent.  They want others to always provide for them.  This I just can’t fathom,  I believe one must always be self-sufficient and be able to be a benefit to society, not a taker.  With these diverse conditions that women have endured,  I think I now understand why these women voted for a man who admitted that he has no respect for women.  They have been brow beaten too long, they have been oppressed too long, they have not learned to think on their own, they have been patronized and their opinions have been ignored. They have been “taught” by the men in their lives to go along with those opinions because it is easier than rocking the boat.  They are insecure and lack self-confidence. They gain approval by doing as their man wants them to do and this is enough.

What we lose staying in this state of dependence and denial of misogyny is ourselves.  We lose our independence.  We lose our equality, we lose equality for our daughters, our sisters and we lose respect.  We lose equal pay for equal work. We lose our voice. We become invisible and irrelevant.

So now the question is, what as a woman are you willing to do to change your state of mind? Are you willing to put up with the lewd remarks, the gestures, the patronizing, the pass-over of promotion at work because you are too quiet?  Are you going to speak up?  Are you going to go for it?  Are you going to learn to do something that you have never done before?

As a man are you going to think twice about what you are saying to a woman, to any woman, to the woman you love?  Respect her for her thoughts, you may not agree, but you do have to respect her opinion.  We are here, we are not invisible, we have a heart and soul. We are intelligent.




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